Zimbabwe dry spell: How nation shot itself in the foot

In this Thursday, January 15, 2009 file photo, village women receive aid from the charity organisation, Oxfam International, at a distribution centre 250km from Harare, Zimbabwe. Nearly half of Zimbabweans are currently facing hunger and starvation. [File]
With each new day, more Zimbabweans continue to march towards starvation as food shortage bites.

The country, already grappling with its worst economic crisis since it ousted its long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017, is experiencing its worst famine in 40 years.

And the unrelenting misfortunes of the once Southern Africa’s breadbasket is taking no prisoners – the health system is in the gutters.

About 8 million of the 14.7 million Zimbabweans are without food and water. This lot is on the verge of starvation.

SEE ALSO :Zimbabwe says 55 elephants die from starvation after drought

The predicament has forced them to lean on the World Food Programme for survival. The relief agency said it will provide 4.1 million of them with cereal, pulses and vegetable oil.

“We’re deep into a vicious cycle of sky-rocketing malnutrition that’s hitting women and children hardest and will be tough to break,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley yesterday said in a press statement seen by Standard Digital.

He went on: “With poor rains forecast yet again in the run-up to the main harvest in April, the scale of hunger in the country is going to get worse before it gets better.”

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WFP noted that it will deliver more than 240,000 metric tons of food commodities to ease the hunger, adding that more was needed.

Wildlife has not been spared either. Over 200 elephants have died in Hwange National Park due to the drought with the surviving group helplessly loitering in search of the elusive food and water.

SEE ALSO :Meet Zimbabwe's women-only rangers fighting poaching

The wildlife’s’ situation has not been helped with water holes getting muddy, only trapping them to their deaths.

A 5-kilometre water pool which was once a source of life has turned into a muddy grave yard where animals get stuck and die.

Just how did Zimbabwe’s fortunes change

Climate scholars have said the starvation is ‘man-made’, loosely, Zimbabweans shot themselves in the foot.

President Mugabe's land reform programme seemingly contributed to a decline in Zimbabwe's agricultural output.

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Before that, Zimbabwe's maize production outpaced consumption by an average 400,000 tonnes a year – making it a net exporter.

In the first half of Mugabe's rule (1980–2000), the country's maize production contributed a share of 5 per cent to Africa's output.

In 2000 the late President Robert Mugabe revolved the agricultural sector upside down with his highly controversial fast-track land reform program.

In the last 17 years, more than seven million hectares (17.3 million acres) of land were redistributed. The official justification for this was that it was compensation for colonialism.

The deterioration in Zimbabwe's maize production worsened with the introduction of the country's Fast-Track Land Reform Programme in 2001.

SEE ALSO :Zimbabwe bans electric water heaters

Robert Mugabe wanted to use his land reform program to eradicate the traces of imperialism by giving farms to black Zimbabweans. 

Just last week, a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur attributed the catastrophe to poor farming practise and climate change.

Hilal Elver, a special rapporteur on the right to food warned that food insecurity heightened the risks of civil unrest and insecurity.

“In rural areas, a staggering 5.5 million people are currently facing food insecurity. In urban areas, an estimated 2.2 million people are food-insecure and lack access to minimum public services, including health and safe water,” she told a press conference attended by various news outlets including AFP.

She called for radical reforms in the agricultural sector like investing more in local farming methods, adding that the dependence on imported foods is part of what is ailing the once productive country.

This move she posits, will ensure the country's food reserves can sustain the fast-growing population.

Although the UN has warned that the current condition might be prolonged to next year, the stakeholders in the agricultural sector are determined to bring back the old green Zimbabwe.

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